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Home / Technical Articles / Oil-Filled, Inert-Gas System

Inert-gas system //

A positive seal of the transformer oil may be provided by an inert-gas system. Here, the tank is slightly pressurized by an inert gas such as nitrogen.

The main tank gas space above the oil is provided with a pressure gauge (figure 1). Since the entire system is designed to exclude air, it must operate with a positive pressure in the gas space above the oil; otherwise, air will be admitted in the event of a leak. Smaller station service units do not have nitrogen tanks attached to automatically add gas, and it is common practice to add nitrogen yearly each fall as the tank starts to draw partial vacuum, due to cooler weather.

The excess gas is expelled each summer as loads and temperatures increase.

Figure 1 - Typical Transformer Nitrogen System
Figure 1 - Typical Transformer Nitrogen System

Some systems are designed to add nitrogen automatically (figure 1) from pressurized tanks when the pressure drops below a set level. A positive pressure of approximately 0.5 to 5 pounds per square inch (psi) is maintained in the gas space above the oil to prevent ingress of air.

This system includes a nitrogen gas cylinder; three-stage, pressure-reducing valve; high-and low-pressure gauges; high- and low-pressure alarm switch; an oil/condensate sump drain valve; an automatic pressure-relief valve; and necessary piping.

The function of the three-stage, automatic pressure-reducing valves is to reduce the pressure of the nitrogen cylinder to supply the space above the oil at a maintained pressure of 0.5 to 5 psi. The high-pressure gauge normally has a range of 0 to 4,000 psi and indicates nitrogen cylinder pressure. The low-pressure gauge normally has a range of about -5 to +10 psi and indicates nitrogen pressure above the transformer oil.

In some systems, the gauge is equipped with high- and low-pressure alarm switches to alarm when gas pressure reaches an abnormal value; the high-pressure gauge may be equipped with a pressure switch to sound an alarm when the supply cylinder pressure is running low.

A sump and drain valve provide a means for collecting and removing condensate and oil from the gas. A pressure-relief valve opens and closes to release the gas from the transformer and, thus, limit the pressure in the transformer to a safe maximum value. As temperature of a transformer rises, oil expands, and internal pressure increases, which may have to be relieved.

When temperature drops, pressure drops, and nitrogen may have to be added, depending on the extent of the temperature change and pressure limits of the system.

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Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry facilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming.

2 Comments


  1. Dedek Setiawan Saputra
    Jul 16, 2020

    is vacuum condition in nitrogen sealed transformer normal? because, if it’s normal how can we take the oil sample from that transformer?
    or we must make sure that the pressure in tank is in positive?


  2. zangoc
    Mar 05, 2013

    Is this system only applicable for hermetically sealed transformers ?

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